This Date in Pirates History: May 9

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, one going back to the American Association days. We also have a game from 75 years ago today, as the Pirates take on a Braves team full of former and future Pirates players. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look at a big game from the Freak Show against that same Braves franchise.

Tony Bartirome (1932) First baseman for the 1952 Pirates. Before becoming the long-time trainer for the Pirates, Bartirome played one full season in the majors with Pittsburgh. Tony was a local kid, born and raised in Pittsburgh. He was signed as an 18 year old by Pie Traynor, on behalf of the Pirates, early in 1951. Bartirome played just one season in the minors, then joined the Pirates in 1952, making his major league debut three weeks before his 20th birthday. He hit .220 and was not your typical first baseman. He had 13 extra base hits in 124 games, none of them were homers. Despite the poor season at the plate, Tony did accomplish something pretty impressive by not hitting into a double play all season. He spent all of the 1953-54 seasons serving in the Army before returning to the Pirates in 1955, resigning with the team in January of that year. Tony promised at the time to fight to get back his old job at first base but he ended up spending the next nine seasons in the minors before he retired as a player. He then became a minor league trainer for three years, before joining the Pirates staff in 1967. It was a spot he would hold until after the 1985 season, when he moved on to the same job in Atlanta.

Culley Rickard (1912) Outfielder for the Pirates from 1941-42 and then again in 1947. He played seven seasons in the minors before joining the Pirates on September 20,1941. Culley had hit .339 with 73 extra base hits that year, playing for Memphis of the Southern Association. The first day he was with the team, he started in left field during the second game of a doubleheader, going 2-4 with a double. Culley played a total of six games that year and then 38 games during the 1942 season, with half of those games coming as a pinch hitter. He had his arm broken by a line drive in July of 1942 when he was throwing batting practice. He returned later that season for just one game and that was only as a pinch runner. Shortly before the 1943 season started, Rikard was called to serve during WWII. He returned to baseball in 1946, spending the season with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. Culley hit .325 in 144 games for Hollywood, then rejoined the Pirates for the 1947 season. That year he played 109 games, hitting .287 with 50 walks, 53 runs scored and 32 RBI’s. Rikard split his playing time between right field and center field, in what would turn out to be his last season in the majors. He played five more years in the minors before he retired.

Dan Sullivan (1857) Catcher for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys on April 18, 1886. On Opening Day of the 1886 season, the Alleghenys and the St. Louis Browns played a doubleheader. Sullivan caught the opener, his first game with Pittsburgh. It would also be the last game he played with the team and the last of his major league career. He was released shortly after the game, then played for both Savannah and Memphis in the minors that year, but his pro career ended before the season did. He passed away within seven years of his last game at age 36. His obituary said of his time after baseball “He came (back) to Pittsburgh and started a saloon business without success. Then he disappeared and was not heard from again until the notice of his death.” Sullivan played a total of five seasons in the majors, the first three with Louisville, then he split the 1885 season between Louisville and St Louis. In his only game with the Alleghenys, Dan went 0-4 with two errors.

75 Years Ago,Today

On this date in 1937, the Pirates took on the Boston Braves(also referred to as the “Bees” during this period) at Braves Field. The managers that day were Pie Traynor and Bill McKechnie. Traynor was one of the greatest players in team history while McKechnie was not only a former Pirates player, but at the time, he had led them to their last World Series title, which happened in 1925. Traynor wasn’t playing at that time and he never took the field in 1936, but he did play five more games later in that 1937 season before his Hall of Fame playing career officially ended.

The Pirates lineup included a couple other big names in Pirates history. Out in right field stood Paul Waner, while Arky Vaughan manned the shortstop position. At first base was Gus Suhr, the man who some consider to be the best first baseman in Pirates history. The Braves lineup was loaded with players with Pirates connections, some before this game, some afterwards. Deb Garms led-off in left field, he won a batting crown while with the Pirates in 1940. Al Lopez, batting cleanup, caught for the Pirates from 1940 until 1946. Vince DiMaggio batted fifth, he played five seasons(1940-44) with the Pirates in center field. Elbie Fletcher batted sixth and played first base that day. He played seven seasons for the Pirates. Tommy Thevenow, batting seventh and playing second base, had played five seasons with the Pirates already and would rejoin the team during the 1938 season. The Braves even went to the bullpen for another former Pirates player, Guy Bush, who played for the 1935-36 Pirates.

Pittsburgh won the game that day behind the complete game of Ed Brandt, a former long-time Boston Braves pitcher. Paul Waner scored two runs, while Arky Vaughan added two hits and an RBI. The Pirates scored two runs in the third, fifth and seventh innings, while Boston scored all their runs in the first three innings, one coming from DiMaggio, who hit a solo homer. At the close of play, 75 years ago today, the Pirates stood in first place with an 11-3 record.

Jolly Roger Rewind: May 9, 1997

Baseball fans arriving at Three Rivers Stadium to see the surprising Pirates return from a road trip on a Friday night received a pleasant surprise: the entire Bucco team, minus starting pitcher Francisco Cordova, was there to greet them at the turnstiles. The pleasant surprises for Pirates fans continued once the game started, as Cordova shut out the Braves on seven hits in a 9-0 victory that moved the Bucs into first place in the NL Central.

The winning effort drew support from many Bucco contributors. Cordova, who had moved from the bullpen to the rotation in the final month of the previous season, threw 119 pitches for his first major league complete game. Rookie right fielder Jose Guillen, eleven days shy of his twenty-first birthday, homered off Atlanta starter Terrell Wade. Every position player in the Pirates’ lineup scored a run, drove in a run or both. And the Bucs’ defense restricted the Braves’ ability to rally by throwing out three runners on the basepaths—drawing a sharp contrast to an Atlanta defense whose three errors led to six unearned runs.

(After this feel-good series opening, the Braves restored order over the next three games: sending Denny Neagle, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux to the mound, they crushed the upstart Buccos by an aggregate 27-7 margin.)

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